British PM announces mandatory conscription plans

Rishi Sunak hopes that compulsory service would revive “national spirit”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has revealed his plan to re-introduce mandatory National Service if the Conservative Party remains in power after the general elections, which are set to take place in July, British media reported on Sunday.

Under the scheme, which is expected to cost around 2.5 billion pounds ($3.19 billion) a year, all 18-year-olds would be required to either join the military full-time or volunteer one weekend a month or 25 days a year with community organizations such as police or National Health Service (NHS).

Sunak argued that compulsory service would help revive “national spirit” and “provide life-changing opportunities for our young people,” according to his manifesto first published by the Mail on Sunday.

“This is a great country but generations of young people have not had the opportunities or experience they deserve and there are forces trying to divide our society in this increasingly uncertain world,” Sunak explained as quoted by the BBC.

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“I have a clear plan to address this and secure our future. I will bring in a new model of National Service to create a shared sense of purpose among our young people and a renewed sense of pride in our country,” the PM continued, arguing that the move would provide the youth with “life-changing opportunities” to learn “real world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country.”

“As a father, I look forward to my own two daughters doing their National Service: I think they will find it a rewarding experience,” the politician claimed.

According to the plan, if re-elected, the Conservative Party wants to establish a Royal Commission to finalize the “National Service Program” and launch the pilot in September next year. In the 40-page plan, drawn in secret, the advisers allegedly argued that ramping up Armed forces is necessary in the face of “the growing international threats posed by countries such as Russia and China.”

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The announcement was slammed by the opposition, who accused the Conservatives of crashing the British economy and cutting troop numbers.

“This is not a plan – it’s a review which could cost billions and is only needed because the Tories hollowed out the armed forces to their smallest size since Napoleon,” a Labour Party spokesperson told BBC.

“Our armed forces were once the envy of the world. This Conservative government has cut troop numbers and is planning more cuts to the size of the Army,” Liberal Democrat defense spokesperson Richard Foord MP echoed the statement.

Although, throughout its 364-year history, the British Army has mostly remained an all-volunteer force, conscription was introduced during WWI and WWII with the National Service – the country’s old name for conscription – ending in 1960. In the last decades, the British armed forces have seen significant cuts with the number of troops falling by more than a quarter between 2010 and 2024.

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